Gray and Keys: EPL predictions - Week 17

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Leaving Chelsea behind: Jose Mourinho.

BeIN Sports’ Andy Gray and Richard Keys give their predictions for the coming weekend’s Premier League football fixtures, with Chelsea set to take on Sunderland without Jose Mourinho following the Portuguese boss’ sacking earlier this week.

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– MESSI: Barca now better than Guardiola’s side 

Chelsea v Sunderland

AG: Saturday’s game against Sunderland is fascinating because if the players turn it on and get a great result, what is that going to say to the fans? That they have been cheating them over the past few months by not performing for Mourinho? It’s a strange one.

I do expect a response from the players but Sam Allardyce’s team will make life really difficult for them. 1-0.

RK: I sort of agree with Andy, but Sunderland are no pushovers under Allardyce and although Chelsea might well turn it on, I’m going 1-1.

Arsenal v Man City

AG: This should be a terrific game of football because Manuel Pellegrini does not like playing defensive football so he will attack and try and win the game as will Arsenal. I would fancy the Gunners if they were at full strength but City are good enough to get a point. 2-2.

RK: This game is dependant on which Arsenal and which Manchester City turn up because we all know both these two teams can be frustrating. If Arsenal play to their maximum they will win. 2-1.

Everton v Leicester

AG: Leicester’s performance against Chelsea on Monday will have taken an awful lot of out them and it will be really tough going to Goodison Park. Defensively, Everton are good enough to cope with Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, and at the other end Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley are a big threat. 2-0.

RK: Leicester won’t be easily rolled out of the title race now after that terrific win over Chelsea but Everton can put the brakes on their charge. 2-2.

Man United v Norwich

AG: United need a performance because they remain unconvincing and this is an ideal opportunity against a struggling Norwich. 2-1.

RK: Bournemouth proved me right last week in that United’s players are unhappy and frustrated with Louis van Gaal. Norwich might get something out of this but I have to believe that at home United will edge it. 1-0.

Southampton v Tottenham

AG: A difficult game for Mauricio Pochettino, going back to the club where he was so successful. Southampton are playing well without getting the results they want but because they are at home I’ll give them a point. 1-1.

RK: Southampton look like they are toiling a little bit and as bad as Spurs were last week I can’t see them winning this. 1-2.

Stoke v Crystal Palace

AG: Stoke are always difficult to beat at home but Palace are excellent at playing deep and then hitting the opposition on the counter attack. My head says draw but I am going with Stoke to win 2-1.

RK: It’s a stunning fact that nobody has scored against Stoke City this year while Ryan Shawcross has been on the pitch. However, Palace have got enough to score. 1-1.

West Brom v Bournemouth

AG: Bournemouth have won their last two games which is terrific but the Baggies are stubborn and Tony Pulis’s defence is good enough to keep a clean sheet. 1-0.

RK: On the law of averages Bournemouth should lose after two back to back wins but they will get a point. 1-1.

Newcastle v Aston Villa

AG: If Villa are still in the game with half an hour to go I think the edgy St James’ Park crowd might actually help them. A shock 0-1.

RK: Villa looked a little better last week in terms of organisation but it is too little too late. Newcastle will make it three wins in a row. 2-1.

Watford v Liverpool

AG: Watford have proved they are no mugs in this league and can cause anyone problems. However, Liverpool should be good enough to get a draw. 1-1.

RK: I am really impressed with Watford and Liverpool are still under transition under Jurgen Klopp. 1-0.

Swansea v West Ham

AG: If Swansea play as well as they did against Manchester City last week they will beat injury-hit West Ham. 2-0.

RK: Swansea were impressive last week, which suggests they had downed tools, like the Chelsea lads, to get rid of Garry Monk. The Hammers are missing key players and are looking frustrated. 2-0. 

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Gray and Keys: Mou's Chelsea exit was inevitable

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Bowing out: Jose Mourinho.

Jose Mourinho’s dismissal didn’t come as a shock to Andy Gray and Richard Keys, who front beIN Sports’ Premier League coverage, but was it the right decision?

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– MESSI: Barca now better than Guardiola’s side 

Andy Gray: The Premier League will be a poorer place without Jose Mourinho. We will miss him, big time. It was a culmination of things that cost him job, although his post-match interview after being beaten by Leicester was his death knell.

It started before the season finished last year when, in April, he gave Roman Abramovich a list of the players he wanted and didn’t get one of them.

Then they came back too late for pre-season this year and were off the pace from the start, there was the incident with the doctor, the dropping of John Terry so publicly, and the general slagging off of players like Eden Hazard, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa which he never did the first time he was at Chelsea.

So although I don’t believe he lost the entire dressing room, there were clearly problems with some big players which is probably the main reason he has gone.

He looks to me like a guy who hasn’t found any answers, his best players haven’t responded to his cajoling and I think it reached a stage where he said, ‘you know what, if they don’t care then why should I’, and I think he will be glad to be out of it. Is it Chelsea’s loss that he has gone?

Well, if I look at Mourinho and I look at the world of football and ask myself who is out there who is going to make things happen for Chelsea, once Gus Hiddink’s interim stint is finished, I am struggling. Maybe Pep Guardiola or Carlo Ancelotti but neither of those two are going to go to Stamford Bridge.

I understand why Diego Simeone is being linked with the club but if they think Mourinho ran roughshod over players and officials and upset people, my God, wait until this guy gets there and finds himself under a bit of pressure in the Premier League. He is a volatile character and probably far worse than Mourinho when you talk about abrasive characters.

So Chelsea have lost one the best managers in their history and one of the top coaches in world football. They may feel they are better for it, but I am not so sure in the long run that will prove to be the case and it could turn out to be a mistake and backfire.

Having said that, over the last 10 years they have had coach, after coach and it hasn’t stopped them winning trophies but that has mainly been down to their players. And if their recruitment doesn’t improve, no matter who they get in, they won’t get much joy out of the current squad of players.

As for Mourinho, I think he will head back to Real Madrid and some are speculating about Manchester United, although I am not entirely convinced that will happen, no matter how much he covets that job.

Saturday’s game against Sunderland is fascinating because if the players turn it on and get a great result, what is that going to say to the fans? That they have been cheating them over the past few months by not performing for Mourinho? It’s a strange one.

I do expect a response from the players but Sam Allardyce’s team will make life really difficult for them. 1-0. 

Richard Keys: The players wanted him out, I am convinced that he wanted out and, frankly, I am surprised it took so long. I’m being told there is no doubt he will go back to Real Madrid and it could be as early as the restart after the winter break, but as Andy says, Manchester United are also, inevitably, being put into the mix.

Everybody is now saying Chelsea have got to find stability. Why? They have had a succession of coaches in the last 10 years and won everything. They are the antithesis of stability.

There are so many people pulling in so many different directions, and although it appear to work when it comes to winning trophies, the fact they have had so many coaches over a short period of time tells you something.

As for his replacement I can’t imagine Simeone wouldn’t want to come here and manage in the Premier League, so he is probably the one. Guardiola won’t want it. He likes serenity and there’s none of that at Chelsea.

As for Saturday, I sort of agree with Andy, but Sunderland are no pushovers under Allardyce and although Chelsea might well turn it on, I’m going 1-1.

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Ranieri says table-topping form is just the start for Leicester

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Table-toppers: Leicester City.

Claudio Ranieri believes this season could be the start of something big at Leicester.

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– EPL Fantasy Football: Sport360’s top tips for this week

After their great escape last season, the Foxes were once again tipped for a battle against relegation but under Ranieri, who replaced Nigel Pearson during the summer, they have defied the odds and currently sit proudly at the top of the league.

Victory against Everton on Saturday will guarantee Leicester are the Christmas number one – and only one team in that position in the past five years – Liverpool in 2013-14 – have failed to go on and lift the title.

Ranieri’s side head to Goodison Park nine points ahead of fifthplaced Tottenham and in a strong position to qualify for next season’s Champions League but the Italian has always maintained that reaching 40 points remains the aim.

However, in a change of tack, Ranieri welcomed Sir Alex Ferguson’s assertion that Leicester could win the title and that he had always wanted to turn Leicester into a Premier League force.

“I have read about who is top at Christmas Day will win the league, blah, blah, blah… but this is a strange league. Everything is strange,” said Ranieri.

“Maybe it is right to listen to Sir Alex, because he is not involved in this race. Of course I would like to win. Who doesn’t like to win the Premier League? Sir Alex knows about horse racing and about how the horses arrive in the last 10 metres or 100 metres. I want my horses at the end of the race.

“This year for us is a good time to build. I hope in the next (few) years, everybody has to put Leicester in the top of the league.” 

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